Reciting My Own Poems

David Russell Mosley

 

Eric and I in the Garden

Eastertide
Feast of St. George
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

In this short video to you all I recite three poems I wrote about two years ago. I hope you enjoy.

Sincerely,
David

 

Reciting Poetry for Poetry Month: And a New YouTube Channel

David Russell Mosley

 

Eastertide
22 April 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

April is Poetry Month and I’ve nearly let the month slip by without commenting on it in anyway. So, I thought it would be a good idea if I recited some poetry. In truth, I was inspired by author Neil Gaiman’s recitation of Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky,” and decided I’d like to have a go at some more poetry recitation. I also thought it was high time I created a YouTube channel for the website. I elaborate more on that in another letter. While I hope to post a few more readings before April ends, here are my readings of “Jabberwocky” and “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” I hope you enjoy.

Sincerely,
David

 

“Jabberwocky”:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”:

What I’m Reading, Working On, and Have Coming Out

David Russell Mosley

 

Eastertide
21 April 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

My life has been a little busy as of late. Between my family, teaching online, applying for more jobs, trying to think of new projects, trying to come up with a proposal for the upcoming Patristics, Medieval, Renaissance Conference, and finalizing, sort of, things for my two forthcoming books, it’s been hard to find inspiration to write here. I tried to start blogging through Taylor’s A Secular Age and while I’m still reading it and taking notes, blogging through all 700+ pages of it feels overwhelming. That said, I am going to try harder to blog more often. So today, I’m going to give some updates on what I’m reading, what I’m doing/working on, and what I’ve got coming up.

What I’m Reading:

Along with Taylor’s A Secular Age, I’m reading Andrew Greeley’s The Catholic Imagination, which I am enjoying; Lord of the Rings; and Dante’s Paradiso. If you look at my goodreads page you’ll see several other books that are currently on the back burner. I’ll also be picking up several new review books over the next few weeks which I’ll write about here once I have them.

What I’m Working On:

So I have four main things I’m working on. First of all, I’m working on putting together an online intro theology course for Johnson University. I’m really enjoying putting this class together. Currently, I’m assigning McGrath’s Christian Theology Reader, Ron Heine’s Classical Christian Doctrine, and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I’m also working on three possible writing projects. The first is a project on Sacramental Ontology. I’m wanting to follow on from the work of Hans Boersma and connect sacramental ontology to actual sacraments. The second is a collection of essays. I’m working on pulling together some of the things I’ve written here along with some new essays on the relationship of Faërie and theology. Finally, I’m working on a proposal for the upcoming PMR (see above) conference at Villanova. I think I’m going to propose a paper on the relationship between the bread and wine in the Eucharist and bread and wine in daily consumption in Thomas Aquinas.

What I’ve Got Coming Up:

I have two books due at the end of this month. Well actually, I have one book (as in the manuscript) due at the end of the month and marketing stuff due for another book, whose MS has been submitted, also due at the end of the month. To be more specific: The MS for my novel, On the Edges of Elfland: A Fairy-Tale for Grown Ups, is due at the end of the month to Wipf and Stock publishers. Look out for more information on that over the next few months. My other book, the publication of my PhD thesis––Being Deified: Poetry and Fantasy on the Path to God––has the rest of its marketing stuff (I can’t really claim to understand it all) is due at the end of the month as well. Both books will, hopefully, be out this Autumn at the latest. I’ll post more about it as well as time goes on.

So, that’s what’s going in my life, aside from watching my adorable children grow up, spending time with my beautiful wife, and trying to deepen my faith and work with God to prepare myself for the Beatific Vision. I hope you all are well and hope to do better by you here on Letters from the Edge of Elfland.

Until then, I remain your Elfland correspondent.

Sincerely,

David

Levitas and Gravitas, Fairies and Mystics: A Response to Christiana N. Peterson

David Russell Mosley

11693870_621718160704_455999442244007259_n

Eastertide
7 April 2016
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Last week, Image Journal, posted to their blog an essay by Christiana N. Peterson. In the essay, Peterson talks about her daughter’s longing for fairies and its relation to the mystics longing for God. I posted the article to my personal Facebook page saying, “There is more that could be said, but this is a good beginning.” Today, I would like to say a little more.

Some of my friends responded to the article noting that the depiction of mystics was rather sanitized and romanticized. This is true. Peterson writes:

The mystics’ words make me think of wings again, of living in the trees of Middle Earth with the elves. Why, I wonder, would reading the mystics feel like reading Tolkien or searching for fairies in the dying light of summer?
I so want to encounter God in the way of the mystics. I want to know God is with me, right now in the moment, in tangible, visible ways. So I pour over their words and spiritual practices, wishing to have visions but knowing that God often comes to us in more mundane ways.

For Peterson, reading the mystics is like reading Tolkien, but I’m not sure if it’s like reading Tolkien in the right way. For Peterson, the connection is between the deeper realities glimpsed by the mystic and a land populated with things like elves, dwarves, and dragons. Yet when I read the mystics, I feel less like I’m reading Tolkien, in that sense anyway, and more like I’m reading Ezekiel or Dante or Tolkien in a very different sense. Let me explain.

The mystics, who really can’t be categorized together like this, are often giving us insight to one of two things if not both. Often they are giving us translated visions of the deeper reality, of the angels, thrones, and powers, the logoi that stand behind and uphold, through God, the things we experience everyday. Or else they give us an insight into ourselves. Peterson mentions Theresa’s interior castles, but it is precisely that these are castles that exist within us. I think of Augustine’s Confessions where he turns from searching for God in creation to searching for God within himself and as he plumbs the depths of his soul is raised to higher heights. Or again, I think of Dante who takes us through Hell (our own sinfulness), purges us in Purgatory, and gives us that first glimpse of the Beatific Vision and the ecstatic understanding that will be given to us on how God could be so joined to man in the person of Jesus Christ, by extension (or better participation) in us. Or again, I think of Denys and how the Celestial Hierarchy stands behind, upholds, and gives reality to the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy.

For me this reminds me of Tolkien not because of Middle-earth, per se, but what Middle-earth represents, namely the reality of Faërie. Tolkien writes in On Fairy-stories, “It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of words, and the wonder of things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.”⁠1 I’ve written before about this, and other, quotations from Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories, but I want to draw attention to this line again because of the examples Tolkien uses. It is perhaps not inappropriate to see in bread and wine the Eucharist. Here, in a way, we get at the heart of the mystics. For many mystics things we see in everyday life, or fantastical combinations of them (e.g., the griffon), stand for deeper, spiritual realities. They images that serve as symbols of a deeper reality. In the Eucharist (and other sacraments) it is not just pictures but physical objects themselves that serve as real symbols of deeper realities.

What is more, however, is that for Tolkien, Faërie itself is the Perilous Realm. A land in which, should we venture, we will not come out unchanged (as Aragorn says to Boromir before they enter Lothlorien). If, as a friend has suggested, Peterson’s view of mystics is sanitized, so too is her picture of Faërie. The angels, it would seem, are terrifying to behold, if we take seriously their injunctions to “Be not afraid” when they appear to mortals. Lewis uses this to an interesting effect in his Perelandra when the two guiding intelligences of the planets Mars and Venus ask Ransom, the human protagonist of the Cosmic Trilogy, to tell them which will form will be most suitable for introducing themselves to the King and Queen of Venus. Ransom is terrified as they appear to him in forms whose depictions are lifted almost word for word out of Scripture (notably Ezekiel).

Now, like Peterson, I will be raising my children to look for fairies, though perhaps not in broken potsherds, but in large mounds. I hope that this investment in their imagination will do for them what it did for me, open up the possibility that there are things we cannot see or cannot comprehend and categorize. That along with angels and the logoi (insofar as those two are separable) there may be lesser beings both like and unlike us who belong to this world in a way even we do not, and that we might be able to catch a glimpse of them if we correct our vision (which often takes holiness). Yet I hope my children will also learn to seek these things in the right spirit, the spirit that says these things are not safe, they are not tame, to borrow language from Lewis, but that at least some of them are good.

So, I agree with Peterson, there is a connection fairies, or better Faërie, and Mystics. But this connection has to have the right tenor, the right level of both levitas and gravitas. We can at once find both joy and terror in the presence of God, so to in the Perilous Realm, and we need both in order to see them more clearly. A joyless God is not a God worth our worship and yet neither is one who does not inspire us to say, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” What we do not need are safe fairies, nor a safe God. Safe reality is not worth our existence. We need stories and a reality that rightly reflect the deeper truths. Consider again the Eucharist. Here is the source, in so many ways, of all our joy. We are united to Christ as we eat his flesh and drink his blood. Yet consider precisely what we are doing, we are eating flesh and blood. We are re-visiting not only the night on which Jesus was betrayed, but his crucifixion, his body torn, his blood poured out. The source of all our joy is a moment of horrific torture unto death. This is something the mystics most certainly understood as their visions make clear (I think of St. Perpetua and her dream about the ladder covered in nails and spikes with a dragon at its base. Yet once she reaches the top, there is joy and peace). It is both levitas and gravitas, life and death, joy and danger, that unites our search for fairies and our search for God and the deeper truths of reality.

Sincerely,
David

anImage_3.tiff

1 J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘Tree and Leaf,’ in The Tolkien Reader (New York: The Ballantine Publishing Company, 1966), 78.